A Checklist for your Car before Going on Holiday
Setting off on holiday in your car is exciting for all concerned. However, make sure that you’ve prepared your vehicle well for the forthcoming journey by taking some of the following essential pre-holiday maintenance steps.
Checking the brakes
Before travelling anywhere on holiday, always be sure to check your brakes for faults and replace the brakes if necessary. Do this on a test run in absolutely safe surroundings where there are no other vehicles. Drive your car at various speeds and brake hard. You should come to a rapid stop in a straight line. If your car skews to one side when you brake (you’ll feel it ‘pulling’ through the steering wheel), feels ‘spongy’ through the brake pedal or makes a sound like sandpaper (or squealing) when it brakes, you may have defective brake pads, wheel balance problems or even hydraulic defects.
Get these professionally checked immediately. Even if everything seems fine, you may be taking too long to come to a complete stop. Find typical stopping distance tables for your vehicle online and be sure. Finally, find a fairly steep incline and park your car on it. Your hand brake alone should hold your vehicle comfortably and preferably at below its ‘highest’ level on the brake handle. If it doesn’t, tighten it up or get a mechanic to help you with it.
Check your steering
Another important point is steering. Go somewhere safe – an empty car park at the weekend is ideal – and then drive your car forward very slowly. Remove your hands from the steering wheel a tiny distance, keeping them poised ready to grasp the steering again, with the wheel set straight ahead. If your car starts to drift to the right or left, something is wrong – possibly your steering is out of alignment. That may require expert diagnosis and immediate action. Next, try driving your car slowly and check that it is responding fully and immediately to you turning the steering wheel. Any delays or slack must be checked further. Remember, if necessary, replacing your brakes or fixing the steering might save your life!
Remember the ‘consumables’
Oil is the best known of these. Check your levels via the dipstick, reading them off against the manufacturer’s recommendations in your vehicle guide. Typically, your engine should be warm when doing so rather than hot from demanding use or cold immediately after a start-up. Top up the oil if necessary. Check also the last time you had an oil change. If it’s approaching the manufacturer’s recommended ‘change by’ figures, then drain your system in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines and dispose of the old oil in line with environmental laws. You should also be sure to check your air filter. Find where it is and how to open it in your owners’ guide. If the filter inside looks very dirty, it should be replaced. Check all the wiper blades for signs of deterioration (many modern blades have warning patches to indicate when they’re starting to fail). Finally, look at your hydraulics and fluid system levels – i.e., your brake/steering fluid containers, which will have “max” and “min” levels on them. Top up any that are below “min” levels and make sure you use only recommended brand liquids.